Conserving the Rights of the Pima Indians of Arizona.
The Government is expending large sums of money in providing well water for irrigation of the Pima lands. These Indians are entitled, as a matter of right through prior appropriation, to the natural flow of the water of the Gila River, and justly claim that every step possible should be taken by the Government to secure for them the reestablishment and continuance of the use of the low-water-mark water for irrigation.
These Indians were the first settlers along the Gila River, and were self-supporting until immigrants nearer the source of the river diverted the waters for their own uses. The Government has so far failed to prosecute the necessary causes to establish and secure the continued use of these waters for irrigation, and this, notwithstanding the fact that these Indians have uniformly been loyal to the United States and formerly aided in suppressing the revolts of the warlike Apaches.
The Pimas and many of their friends feel that the continued use of well water for irrigation is, at best, in an experimental stage, and results from use of the flow of underground waters in different locations within their reservation is foreboding to them.
Directly affecting the Pimas' interests is the proposed disposition of the San Carlos Reservoir site by the Government. Every precaution should be taken to see that provision is made for the Pimas and that their right to the use of sufficient low-water-mark water is guaranteed to them in any negotiations had in the matter.
The inclosed letters and statements concerning these rights of the Pimas, we submit, reveal a condition that calls for investigation. Since many of these statements are made by Mr. Herbert Marten, Sacaton, Ariz., within the Pima Reservation, we desire to state that on former occasions we have found statements made by him to have been very carefully considered and fully substantiated by investigation.
We have been in close touch with the needs of the Pimas for several years and believe that their best interests demand an investigation within the reservation and vicinity thereof by your committee, so that the facts affecting their right to land and water may be made a matter of record for your future use in their behalf.
Very respectfully, yours,
We earnestly hope that you can bring the matter below mentioned to the attention of the Secretary of the Interior and present our petition before Congress before our water rights in the Gila River are forever lost to us:
A reference to the letter recently sent by the Indian Office to Allotting Agent Charles E. Roblin under date of April 29, 1911, reference 41789, land allotments, Gila River, will show that it is the intention of the Government to move the Pima Indians from the different parts of the Gila Reservation, where they are at present located, and establish them at or near the settlement of San Tan, under the system of wells now in process of construction.
As the heads of families everywhere on the reservation are to be allotted at San Tan, with their wives, it follows, of course, that they and their families will have to be moved to San Tan if they are to make use of their allotments. Many of these Indians will have to be moved a distance of 25 miles, and most of the allotments will have to be made on raw land.
It would seem by a reference to Exhibits 1 and 3 that in 1904 Mr. W. H. Code, now chief engineer of the United States Reclamation Service, recommended that out of the 180,000 acres of land which he proposed at that time that the Indians should surrender to the Government, a certain portion should be allotted to the Indians, namely, about 5,000 acres at Gila Crossing and 1,500 acres at Maricopa.
In the fore part of this same Exhibit 1 Mr. Code gives reasons why land should be retained by the Government for the Indians at the points specified, namely, because they are of great value on account of the constant supply of natural gravity water flowing there at all seasons of the year, sufficient to irrigate all the area of between four and five thousand acres at Gila Crossing and 1,000 acres at Maricopa, which Code proposed at that time should be reserved.
That was in 1904. Now, in 1911, it is suddenly proposed, without a word of warning, to move the Indians away from these valuable points of agricultural development on to an area of raw land to be watered by pumps at the other end of the reservation; of course without warning.
Answer.--In 1904 there were no white settlers at or near the village or district of Gila Crossing, and the Indians were being let comfortably alone because nobody wanted their land at that time. Hence Mr. Code's proposal to allot them there.
The reason why no white settlers were near the village of Gila Crossing in 1904 was because the Indians had appropriated all the available constant water supply that could be obtained from the Gila River at that point and were using the same on their reservation, and there was as yet no prospect of obtaining water for this land out of the Salt River because the construction of the Roosevelt Reservoir had not been assured. Besides, there was not the rush for land around Phoenix at that time (1904) that has since occurred.
But now, since the completion of the Roosevelt Reservoir, it is known that all the cultivable land on the north side of the river at Gila Crossing can be supplied with Salt River impounded water, and in consequence this land has become of much speculative value, so that all the public land near the reservation line in the neighborhood of Gila Crossing has been filed on by white homesteaders.
There are over 1,000 Indians, according to official count, at the settlement of Gila Crossing. These Indians have about 30 miles of canals, and Mr. Code's own report is submitted (Exhibit 1) to show that in the phenomenally dry season (Code's own words) of 1904 there were 1,500 inches of seepage water available at the Indian settlement of Gila Crossing. Code ought to know.
The following pertinent question may appropriately be asked: ‘‘If 1,500 inches of water flow constantly at Gila Crossing by force of gravity sufficient, as Mr. Code says, to irrigate between four and five thousand acres, and this also, according to Code's report, in the phenomenally dry season of June, 1904 (see Exhibit 1), why does Mr. Code want the Indians to abandon that much water in order to get a similar amount of pumped water from the wells at San Tan?’’
Code claims the maximum output of each well to be 250 miner's inches of water. This estimate is undoubtedly too high. Whatever the output may be theoretically, it is very doubtful if as much as 200 inches of water will reach the Indians' fields after it has been distributed through the laterals. Every farmer knows the loss sustained by seepage into the ground and evaporation as the water passes through the ditches in Arizona during the summer months.
However, allowing for the sake of argument that this 250 inches of water does really reach the Indians' fields after being distributed through the ditches, Mr. Code's estimate of 1,500 inches of seepage water at Gila Crossing would be equal to the output of six wells. Add to this the water supply of the Maricopas below Gila Crossing on the Pima Reservation, assured from the Salt River, sufficient, as Mr. Code says, to irrigate about 1,000 acres, equal to the output of at least one more well, and the result is that the amount of natural water flowing by gravity assured to the two villages of Gila Crossing and Maricopa equals the output of at least seven wells.
Thus this output of water, equal in volume to a stream covering 6,000 acres of land, from wells, according to Code's own estimate, would be worth the cost of seven wells at about $10,000 per well, or, approximately, $70,000--a very nice snap for the whites, without counting the land and improvements.
However, it is stated that even with this assured water supply there is not enough water at Gila Crossing for purposes of irrigation. This is undoubtedly true, and it is also true that there is seldom or never enough water for irrigation purposes anywhere, even under the reclamation system.
That this natural supply of assured water at Gila Crossing could be augmented by means of pumped water there is no doubt, nor is there any doubt as to the feasibility of extending the transmission line to Gila Crossing. But the cost is said to be prohibitive--as much as $4,000 per mile, it has been stated. This is obviously not true, and certain officials of the Reclamation Service, who should and doubtless do know, and whose names can be given, state that the transmission line can be installed at a cost of $1,700 per mile.
This estimate is nearer the truth, as will be apparent when it is known that the cost of the 40-foot towers which are used in constructing the transmission line strung between them cost but $50 apiece laid down at Mesa, Ariz., and the transmission wire is No. 6 cable, composed of three strands of hard drawn copper wire, twisted together.
Allowing the cost of this transformer station to be $30,000 and the cost of the transmission line alone to be $1,700 per mile for 25 miles, this being about the distance from the end of the present power line to Gila Crossing, amounting to $42,500, it can be seen that the total cost of such transmission line would aggregate, approximately, $70,000. The supply of gravity water at Gila Crossing and at the Maricopa village some miles below it, which supply it is proposed the Indians should abandon in favor of pumped water at San Tan, has been shown, according to Mr. Code's figures, to be equal to the output of seven wells, at an estimated cost of $70,000, for which a transmission line might be installed to Gila Crossing.
Seeing that it would cost approximately $70,000 to get as much pumped water at San Tan as now is running at Gila Crossing by force of gravity, why not expend this amount of money on an electric transmission line and augment the natural supply of water at Gila Crossing with three or four wells, seeing that this additional supply would cost no more to pump there than at San Tan. Another advantage, amounting in a few years to big figures, would be that there would be no electricity to buy at a cost of nearly 1 cent per killowatt hour for this natural gravity water nor any maintenance charges to keep up for the seven wells that would be required to produce an equal flow at San Tan. Moreover, in the case of pumped water, there is always danger of the permanent water plane of the country being lowered below the depth of the wells from various causes, thus necessitating the deepening of the wells at great additional expense, and perhaps at a very critical time for growing crops.
On March 3, 1904, the water level in all the bored wells stood 22 inches below the concrete floor of our tunnel. This measurement was made at a time when the pump had not been operating for several days, hence the level was assumed as normal. On October 21, 1904 * * * I found the normal water level to be 31 inches below floor of tunnel. This latter measurement showed a lowering of the water plane of 9 inches since last March. * * *
This year, 1911, the permanent water plane of the country in which the said wells are situated is 6 feet lower than it was at the time the wells were first started in 1904, and if it should still continue to increase in depth the situation will become not only critical but alarming.
These data are merely given to show that the plan to extend the transmission line to Gila Crossing would not be impracticable, as has been stated, nor attended with any more expense than a system of wells to take the place of a natural gravity water supply such as there is at that point. Indeed, such a plan would be attended with not only less expense, but greater advantages.
The people at Gila Crossing have enough assured water already to supply a large part of their acreage and would be better off as well as better pleased to be left alone by the Government rather than to be removed from their present homes on to raw land supplied with water from pumps, which is not good water, though it may serve when augmented with much muddy flood water, and in this way only be free from the injurious effects on the land of pumped water alone.
Here is yet another pertinent question: Seeing that it is proposed by the Government in their letter from the Indian Office to Allotting Agent Charles E. Roblin, under date of April 29, 1911, to allot all the Indians on the north side of the river at San Tan, why was not water instead of electricity bought for them? Water, not electricity, seeing that such water can be delivered from the reservoir to the reservation on the north side of the river at different points. Such water is being distributed to the Maricopas on the north side of the river at the extreme west end of the Gila Reservation, sufficient, as Mr. Code says, to irrigate 1,000 acres (see Exhibit 1), and the whites are only waiting the time when Gila Crossing shall be opened to settlement to spread Salt River impounded water over what is still the Indians' land. The Maricopas get their Salt River impounded water by court decision. The Reclamation Service, under Mr. Code would doubtless have preferred them to have pumped water, although such acreage of land in the Gila Valley as the Government has supplied with pumped water is assessed at the enormous rate of nearly $50 per acre in common with the acreage in the Salt River Valley which draws water from the Roosevelt Reservoir.
It was stated at the time that this deal was first proposed that the Roosevelt water could not be gotten across the Gila River for the reservation to water the south side of it, while on the other hand, it was quite easy to extend the transmission line and so secure power to supply both sides of the reservation land along the river with a constant water supply. Why, then, is the transmission line not now to be extended?
Why is only a small area on the north side of the river to be watered with electrically developed water, when, if the Government's plan were that all the Indians be moved onto such small area on the north side, gravity water could have been secured for the same? The reason is obvious. The whites want the land at Gila Crossing and are determined to have it at any cost and by any means. And the means being at present employed is to delude the Government, by the aid of some unscrupulous officials, into believing what is not true against the interests of the Indians, and to use the Government as a cat's-paw to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for the land grabbers.
Whatever may be said for or against extending the transmission line to Gila Crossing, why is it that the proposed nine wells which were to have been sunk at Casa Blanca will not now be put there, but the plan abandoned, and the Indians living at that village be required to move away onto a piece of raw land miles distant up the river?
The question is the more pertinent because the end of the transmission line is only about 4 miles from Casa Blanca and headed directly toward that place, and a point has already been determined upon by the Reclamation Service people from which the line may be slung across the river. The cost will be no more than the actual 4 miles of transmission line, as no transforming station will be required.
Is it to accomodate contemplated future white settlers that the power line has been left located so invitingly opposite Casa Blanca? Do the whites intend to use the Government in this case also to get for them this extremely desirable territory which the Indians have farmed and irrigated with fertilizing water for centuries, and where the Spanish conquerors first found them, until the land has become as rich as the Nile Valley and silt and humus have been deposited in places to a depth of several feet? And please note the following:
The Government has bought 1,000 horsepower of electricity for the Pima Indians. The motor with which each well is equipped can consume but 45 horsepower as its maximum, and no pump can be supplied with more.
At present there are but 10 wells constructed or in process of construction, and 3 more are contemplated at present. It is claimed that these 13 wells will supply 20,000 acres with assured water perpetually, which area is all the Government expects to assure a supply for so far as the Pima Indians are concerned.
Now, how much of the 1,000 horsepower of electricity contracted for by the Government for the Indians will these 13 wells consume? Forty-five horsepower for 13 wells equals 585 horsepower, or a little more than half of the supply that has been contracted for.
It is planned to use 150 horsepower at Sacaton Agency, but since the Indians' lands will get no benefit from this expenditure it should not be charged up against them. Where is the four hundred and odd horsepower of electricity not used going to be expended? This, allowing for some loss, would be sufficient to run some eight more pumps.
Again, why has the original scheme, thought to have ben definitely settled, to equip the settlement of Casa Blanca with nine wells, been suddenly abandoned and the number of wells now contemplated, in addition to those completed or in process of completion, been cut down to three, all of which are to be drilled on the north side of the river, at San Tan, to irrigate raw land?
The whites will know just how much electricity there is to spare and just how to get it across the Gila River after they get possession of the Casa Blanca land. If it be said that more pumps will be installed at San Tan, so as to use up the balance of the horsepower contracted for in the interest of the Indians, that is not a good or just proposition, because the area of old cultivated land which may be watered from wells on the north side of the river at San Tan is a comparatively narrow strip, and only a limited amount of water could be distributed effectively over such an area.
But at Casa Blanca is some of the richest and oldest cultivated land in America, which might be watered to the greatest advantage by means of wells to augment the natural supply of gravity flood water, from which well water might be raised with some of the electricity, of which they have so great a surplus.
It is quite evident from a perusal of some of Mr. Code's former letters, and especially Exhibits 1, 3, and 4, that the sale of the west half of the Gila River reservation is contemplated, and the present move to allot the heads of families, with their wives, and rush all the Indians up to one small corner of the reservation is an organized effort on the part of some unscrupulous schemers to accomplish a nefarious project, while blinding the Government to the true facts.
This is the more apparent because the Pimas have never been consulted with in regard to the proposed exchange of land for pumped water, nor in regard to move them away from their present homes, but the Government's plans for them have always been kept up somebody's sleeve so that no man not in the secret had any accurate knowledge of just what it was proposed to do. Note the following by Code (Exhibit 2):
Any move which would lead these Indians to think that the reservation was to be finally allotted and the surplus lands thrown open will result in much perturbation and discontent on their part and have a serious effect in successfully locating them under the contemplated system.
No wonder that the Indians would be ‘‘perturbed’’ at such a proposition. These Indians have never taken up arms or killed any white people. Why were they not consulted before this scheme was hatched out?
Besides under the latest plan to allot the Pimas all at San Tan nothing is said any more about the 5,000 acres to be reserved at Gila Crossing with the 1,100 inches of water or the 1,500 acres to be reserved at Maricopa with Salt River impounded water sufficient to irrigate 1,000 acres. That has now become too valuable to leave to Indians.
Why should 180,000 acres of the Pimas' territory be required in exchange for the pumping project recommended by Code, of which the cost was to be in the neighborhood of $500,000? This would mean less than $3 per acre for land on which the mesquite timber alone should be worth that amount and still leave the land. Raw land at the white settlements along the Gila River can not be bought for less than $75 per acre, and for land set to alfalfa at Buckeye, a white settlement some 20 miles below Gila Crossing, a price of from $100 to $200 per acre is asked and obtained.
Before the Indians are required to surrender any land, if ever they are required to surrender any,a competent estimate of the land to be surrendered should be made by the Government, so that the value of improved land, unimproved land, timber, and other values could be ascertained, and not a haphazard lumping off of a huge area be permitted without any valuation at all.
But Mr. Code does not ask for any valuation to be made of the land he proposes to have the Government ‘‘exchange’’ for a pumping plant. Probably, as he is not an ignoramus, he knows the value of the said land too well. Others do if he does not, and none better than the Pimas themselves, who have been required to give it up.
And if it be said that there is no such scheme in view, why the letter to Roblin? Why the plan to push the Indians off their farms on this west half of the reservation? Why the frantic haste to allot the land under the wells when there is not one-fourth enough of said land to go round?
The office does not deny the right * * * minor children to allotments of irrigable lands, but that it is its intention, unless future developments shall cause such course to be impracticable, to bring sufficient irrigable land within the reservation under ditch to afford allotments * * * of at least 5 acres * * * to all members of the tribe.
Unless such course be impracticable. It is manifestly impracticable already to allot the heads of families, the bread-winners, on one side of the river and the children on the other for reasons which can be given, and if the allotments are not to be made on the other side of the river (the south side at Casa Blanca), where it was proposed to put down nine wells, and to within 4 miles of where the transmission line has been extended, why are not whole families allotted together at San Tan until all that land has been allotted, instead of only the heads of families and their wives?
The specious contention is put forth that minor children would not make ‘‘actual’’ use of their allotments by reason of their age. What, then, would be the result of the present plan in the case of a family of 10? There are many large families.
Some of these Indians have as much as 60 acres under cultivation now. A family of 10, be it stated, can not make a livelihood on 10 acres of wheat or barley, which are the crops at present mostly grown on the reservation, nor yet could they make a living on 10 acres of alfalfa, which is the white man's chief crop in Arizona. The Government seems willing, even anxious, in the case of the Indians, to believe the glowing reports of real-estate agents.
Would it not be manifestly impracticable to allot the heads of families on one side of a river like the Gila and the children on the other side, where the old and good land under cultivation at Casa Blanca is located, and which it was originally proposed to allot the Indians, when several miles of territory would separate the different allotments, besides a roaring river in flood during the summer months, over which river there is no bridge, and this at a time when crops need daily attention?
Of course it will be found ‘‘impracticable.’’ The whites will see to that after they have settled there. Why is the future tense made use of, as though it were not already impracticable, as Mr. Code very well knows.
The Indians were satisfied with the plan of allotment as proposed and outlined by Mr. Carl Gunderson, ex-chief allotting agent, and are entirely opposed to the present deep laid scheme for their removal, in regard to which it is believed the Government does not know the true facts.
But why are the Pimas without water at all? For years they have begged the Government, through its agents, to restrain the whites above them from shutting off the water which by prior right belongs to the Indians after the river goes below a certain flow, but nothing has been done. The river water which the Indians originally had has been stolen away from them and now they are asked to buy it back.
Here are the figures: The acreage of land in the Gila River Valley, forming part of the reservation, on which the Government has allowed itself to be assessed at the rate of over $45 per acre for the Indians, not for water, but for the right to buy electricity, embraces approximately 20,000 acres. This means a total cost to the Government of $900,000, to which must still be added an additional cost of $500,000 or more, according to Mr. Code's estimate, for wells, pumping plants, and power lines. But Mr. Code knows that it is costing the Government twice what was contemplated in the first place when the plan of reclamation by means of pumps was proposed, so that $500,000 additional must be added to the first $500,000, making an aggregate of some $2,000,000. The Indians are to be made to pay this amount to the Government, or a large portion of it, for supplying them with a wretched substitute of pumped water for what was originally theirs, and of which they were plundered under the very eyes of the Government, despite their protests and earnest appeals.
Among other strange things there is a huge flood-water canal built along the line of country occupied by the wells for the purpose of augmenting their supply, or of dispensing with it altogether whenever the river is in flood. But the Pimas are able to get as much flood water as they require through their old canals. Why should this new canal have been made of such colossal size for so limited an area as it is proposed to reclaim under the wells?
And why should the canal fork into two branches near a point where the transmission line ends--a large branch and a small one? And why should the large branch be directed right straight for the Chandler ranch of 31,000 acres adjoining the reservation, and the small branch be directed toward the future new farms of the Indians which it is proposed they shall be compelled to make for themselves after their removal has been effected?
By the terms of the Roosevelt reclamation project only 160 acres of this ranch can be supplied with water from the Roosevelt reservoir, this area being the maximum that a single individual is allowed to buy.
It thus becomes imperative that water be secured for this ranch from some other source of supply. There is no source of supply on the Salt River, but what so handy as the great flood-water canal running through the reservation, destined supposedly to supply water to the Pimas--a canal big enough to drown out the whole Pima population.
The canal would have to be extended only a few miles to reach the Chandler ranch, and more than that it could water a large part of that portion of the reservation which it is recommended be thrown open to settlement.
There is another fact which must not be overlooked: A series of power stations is being put up by the Reclamation Service on this Chandler ranch. Anybody who knows anything at all about water in Arizona knows that pumped water is worthless without an additional supply of muddy river water mixed with quantities of silt and vegetable matter to overcome the injurious effect of the alkali contained in the well water.
Unless the Chandler ranch can secure flood water from some source, the hugh electric power plants now being constructed there will be of no utility. Be it noted again that the large fork of the great flood-water canal on the Pima Reservation is headed direct for this Chandler ranch.
The thing to be done is to prevent any more wells going down at San Tan, because if this scheme is carried out it will be said that the Indians will have to move, because the wells are already there, and the Indians will have to use them.